I remember the first time I introduced Anya to paint. She was probably 4 months old then. We made not very original footprint craft for daddy’s first Father’s Day. Something that I found on Pinterest. Few months later we made something similar for all family for Christmas. That was all messy and stressful, and zero fun. Now I know why – I forced her to do it, and we both ended up in tears.
What really worked well was crayons and free will. Anya really enjoyed drawing. Moreover, I found it fascinating how focused she was during the process. Seeing her being so much into something motivated me to let her develop herself as an early artist. So I bought her more crayons, pencils and different papers, notebooks, and just put it all somewhere she could reach it, and so she did, almost every day.
Do more of whatever your child enjoys. We paint a lot because Any asks for it. We also dance because she loves it. But maybe your little one will like something else. It’s important to nurture whatever they are enjoying already.
First time I let her play with paint was when she was around 19-20 months. Not earlier because that would be a waste of time, money and my precious nerves. I waited for her to be able to understand how things work and follow my directions. For example, if you give paint to a one year old, she will probably just put it everywhere in her hair, or simply eat it. Therefore, it’s important to wait for the right time.
When is the right time? It depends on every child. If you are afraid to try, just give your little one a piece of paper with few drops of paint on it, and see where it goes. When Anya first time tried finger-painting, it was V-E-E-R-Y messy. However, I saw how much she enjoyed her little fingers being covered in paint, and it motivated me to try it again. And so I did. The second finger-painting session went way better. I could see that she understood her actions better, and the whole process was less dramatic and even fun. You should see her happy face.
Never say no because you are afraid of the mess! If you don’t have time for a bath or cleaning up, that’s okey – find a mess-less alternative, like crayons, or stickers, or whatever your kid likes. Just keep a few options on hand.
However, she lost interest in finger-painting very fast, and so did I. It took her less than 5 minutes to finish a piece, and it always looked like dirt where all colors are mixed up together. Totally not worth the cleaning afterwards. Then some tools came in to hold Anya’s interest in the art-making.
First, I created a special “creative corner” just for her to make art. It’s also a great way to keep all our art stuff in one place. Speaking of the stuff, here’s what we use now:
1. Sponges of different size and shapes and rolls. They are more fun than brushes, and they cost nothing and last long enough if you take care of them. Just clean them with warm water after every use.
2. Canvas. Yes, Anya paints on canvas most of the time. This is not the cheapest option, but the paintings look much better on canvas than on paper. Also, the fact that this is something that we won’t throw away easily motives us to create something special every time, not just mess around, like it would be with a paper. After a small research, I found a place where I can buy canvas in different shapes and sizes, not expensive.
I also like that we can hang canvas on the walls easy. We have a little gallery home where we display Anya’s creations.
3. Brushes. We just started to use brushes and it seems that Anya likes to paint with them. However, we continue to use sponges too. I like how different tools create different textures.
4. Paint. Ta-dam! The most asked question I receive is about what kind of paint do we use. For finger-painting I suggest Djeco Fingerpaint (I added the link). It’s very liquid and dries up very quickly. Easy to clean with wipes.
For more serious art works we use GIOTTO Tempora Paint. It is egg-based which means it’s totally non toxic and super washable! I like that you can buy it in bulk. One 250 ml tube usually lasts about four- five months, depends on a color. Speaking of colors, we have some neon and glitter colors and Anya LOVES them!
Experiment together with your child. That makes the process more enjoyable and amusing for both of you. Use different objects to create interesting textures, go to pain in the garden, or add some fun colors to your palette. It’s about having a good time, never forget that!
(If you are from France, I suggest you this website – 10doigts.fr (link directly to the paint).)
Now, how we do it?
First, I make sure that Anya is in a good mood, even if it’s her who asks to paint. I’ve thrown away a lot of canvas because of her tantrums. Therefore, when she’s moody, I give her crayons, or stickers. Peppa works too.
When everything is set up, and Anya is ready, I squeeze out some paint on a palette. Rule number one: paint with friendly colors! One mistake that that leads to a muddy masterpiece is allowing kids access to ALL colors at once. For example, pink, red and yellow are friendly. If you want to use the opposite colors , like blue and orange, wait for one color to dry completely before you apply another. Unfortunately, there’s not a big chance that your toddler will wait for that.
Here are some examples:
Rule number two: Don’t use water! It will add so much mess and a painting won’t look as good as if you wouldn’t use water. You can add some drops to the first layers, if you want. Like this it will dry faster. But I don’t suggest using water all the time. For the best result – use sponges instead! The paintings above were created with paint and sponges only.
By the way, even if you decide not to use water, know that cardstock or art paper is preferable to typing printer paper because it can withstand being saturated with moisture. Paintings on printer paper just look sad.
Rule number three: When you give your toddler a brush, or a sponge, guide her! Say where she should put paint, or which color she should try, whatever type of pain you use. Don’t let her create a mess on canvas. This is how I do with Anya. I teach her how to use different tools and how to mix colors. If she starts to play with paint, I say: “Look, there’s a blank space! Fill it!” I don’t command her, I guide. If she doesn’t want, no big deal. It’s her painting after all.
Also, teach her to clean up after herself. Ask her to bring the brushes to the kitchen, or to wash her hands. Toddlers like to be helpful.
Rule number four: Breath! If your toddler doesn’t follow all your directions, that’s okay. Don’t forget that the most important is to have a pleasant time together. If you start to stress out about the mess or that the masterpiece doesn’t really look like Da Vinci’s, you kill all joy and fun of the art-making. Don’t forget that after all your child is still a child, and she doesn’t share the same taste in arts with you. For her it’s a real masterpiece that she’s creating. Anya is so proud of every painting of hers. Just be patient and give your child a chance to learn. It will take time, and in the end, you will be so grateful for all the boring groundwork you put in.
For me, making art time with my little Picasso is an investment. It’s our special mother-daughter time when we share a common interest and create a bond with each other.
Rule number five: Tell your child how beautiful is her painting! Praise every touch of a brush if needed to motivate her, and what is more important- for her to feel confident, special and loved. The rest will come with time.
P.S. It’s totally worth it!